Is Shape a Good Guide to Pearl Quality?

The astonishing diversity of the pearl has made pearls a versatile gem of choice for all types of jewellery, in fashion and other accessories. But when buying and wearing pearls, should you pay attention to its shape?

The shape of a cultured pearl is determined by several factors when the pearl is developing inside the mussel or oyster. The most important of these are the shape of the nucleus used by the pearl farmer and the position of a pearl that is grown in the mollusk.

Gemmological experts at the GIA describe the shape of pearls using three categories.

  1. A spherical pearl has a round or near round shape. This is the classic pearl shape. Perfectly round pearls can be quite rare, particularly with Freshwater pearls that tend to be near round as they are not grown around a bead.
  2. A symmetrical pearl has a regular shape so that, if it is sliced in half, each half is a mirror image of the other. These pearls can have an oval, flattened button or drop shape.
  3. A baroque pearl has an irregular and non-symmetrical shape. Pearls are described as semi baroque if they are not quite symmetrical.

Certain pearls also have grooves or ridged rings around their entire circumference and these pearls are referred to as circled.

The value of these pearls can vary widely, with a round pearl being generally considered the most valuable shape of a pearl. Perhaps traditionally this was because pearls were considered to be a symbol of the moon. But today, rarity and perfection are key drivers of value in a cultured pearl. For these reasons we would recommend that you buy pearls from a recognised pearl specialist.

Is shape a good guide to pearl quality? Not entirely. We love the quality and look of baroque pearls. Whilst not as valuable as round pearls, they can still make a highly individual and unique piece of jewellery.

There are also other important factors you should consider when buying pearls such as Lustre and Surface.